The director of the remake of western The Magnificent Seven says he wasn’t trying to make a statement with the film’s diverse casting.
The film, starring Denzel Washington, opened the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday night.
Speaking before the film’s world premiere, director Antoine Fuqua said: “I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse.
“Everyone else fell in place around that idea.”
Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke also star in Fuqua’s retelling of John Sturges’ 1960 western classic.
Vincent D’Onofrio, South Korean star Byung-Hun Lee, Mexico’s Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Native American actor Martin Sensmeier make up the rest of the septet.
Asked about the film’s casting in the light of the current debate in Hollywood about diversity, Fuqua said: “It wasn’t to make a statement. We don’t talk about it because you guys [the media] talk about it.
“My idea was: Denzel Washington walks into a room and the room stops, Clint Eastwood walks into a room and the room stops. Is it because of the gunslinger or because of the colour of his skin? So we let the audience decide.”
Washington, who worked with Fuqua in Training Day and The Equalizer, said he had never seen the Sturges movie, which starred Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.
“I didn’t keep away from it. I just didn’t know how it would help me.
“[Not seeing it] allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do. Instead of trying not to do what someone else did.”
The 1960 western was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese-language film Seven Samurai.
In Fuqua’s action-packed version, seven gunslingers protect the town of Rose Creek from the deadly grip of industrialist “robber baron” Bartholomew Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard.
“The most important thing was to stay true to the DNA of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai,” Fuqua said.
“You can’t do the same thing every era. Westerns change all the time. If we were sticking to just one way of doing something then all westerns would be all white guys looking like John Wayne.
“Westerns change with the time we’re in, so we made our film based on the world we are living in.”
In its review, The Hollywood Reporter described The Magnificent Seven as “efficient but uninspired”.
“It would seem that ethnic variety was the guiding principle more than anything else, the obvious irony being that it’s now a rainbow coalition of misfits defending an all-white town against all-white villains way out west in 1879,” wrote Todd McCarthy.
Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman said the film “hits all the right buttons but misses the fun of the original”.
The Guardian’s three-star review described The Magnificent Seven as “strenuously-topical”.
“Denzel Washington’s classic western hero is commandingly cool and supported by a rakish Chris Pratt,” wrote Jordan Hoffman.
But, he added, “there’s a great deal of waiting around for something to happen”.
The Magnificent Seven is out in the UK and US on 23 September.